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Jaelon Darden 2021 NFL Draft Profile, Dynasty Fantasy Football Analysis & Props To Bet

Jaelon Darden 2021 NFL Draft Profile, Dynasty Fantasy Football Analysis & Props To Bet article feature image

George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jaelon Darden

Jaelon Darden Draft Profile

North Texas
40-Yard Dash
Recruit. Stars
Projected Round
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Jaelon Darden Draft Props

Darden has an over/under of 169.5 at Circa, which (I believe) is the only book to post a prop for him.

Darden is not on my top 100 big board, but I have him ranked No. 139, so I have bet the under.

Jaelon Darden Under 169.5 at Circa, -115: 1.15 units.

I wish I had bet this 2 weeks ago when it opened at 210.5. At the time, I just didn't have a solid read on Darden.

But I still think he goes under.

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) April 27, 2021

With players projected for the second half of the draft, the range of outcomes is wide, but I think Darden is on the borderline of Rounds 4-5. If I had to set this line, I’d probably go with 149.5.

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Dynasty Fantasy Analysis

Within this class, Darden is the Arbitrage Tutu Atwell. If for some reason you want an undersized slot receiver with questionable speed and you miss out on Atwell, then you can take Darden later.

Of course, I don’t really know why you’d want an undersized slot receiver with questionable speed, but some people are into that.

There was nothing sexy about Darden’s production early in college: As a freshman, he was a rotational receiver in a large committee, and as a sophomore he was the distant No. 3 option behind Rico Bussey Jr. and Jalen Guyton.

As a junior, though, Darden emerged as the No. 1 receiver, and as a senior he was one of the most productive players in college football.

  • 2017 (14 games): 32-281-3 receiving
  • 2018 (13 games): 48-575-4 receiving
  • 2019 (12 games): 76-736-12 receiving
  • 2020 (9 games): 74-1,190-19 receiving

Smaller receivers with big-play ability usually get extra production via the running game in college, but Darden did little on the ground at North Texas with just 7-27-0 rushing across his career.

He did, however, contribute as a return man.

  • Punt Returning: 35-510-1
  • Kick Returning: 17-299-0

As his receiving and returning production indicates, Darden is a playmaker.

He specifically is dynamic once the ball is in his hands. Last year, he had 23 broken tackles on 74 catches (per Pro Football Focus) and 7.8 yards after catch per reception (per 2021 Sports Info Solutions Football Rookie Handbook). Darden is slithery and tough to bring down.

But for his size, he’s not at all fast. He’s fast-ish for the NFL, yet for a small receiver he has modest straight-line speed, as indicated by his 27 Freak Score (0-100 scale, per RotoViz Freak Score Calculator).

Darden’s calling card — to the extent that anyone in the year 2021 actually has a calling card — is his agility. With his 6.66- and 3.98-second three cone and short shuttle, Darden exhibited top-decile agility at his pro day (per RotoViz Workout Explorer).

And you can see the more-quick-than-fast athleticism in his play. Although he sometimes runs away from guys, more often he shakes them out of their cleats.

Watch those ankles! 😳@MeanGreenFB's Jaelon Darden makes a couple defenders miss on his way to the endzone!

— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) October 21, 2018

It’s incredibly fun watching the 2020 highlights of Darden shredding overmatched Conference USA defenders. I’m fully rooting for him to succeed in the NFL.

Skepticism, however, is warranted. He dominated as a senior, and he has incredibly smooth routes: He could be a quality NFL slot receiver and return man. But that’s probably his ceiling — unless he makes his way into Day 2. If that happens, then he’ll have the draft capital to project sustainable usage and could develop into a viable fantasy option, especially in point-per-reception leagues à la Jamison Crowder.

But I expect he will go no earlier than Round 4.

This class is so loaded with good slot WRs that Jaelon Darden is probably sliding to Day 3, which is kinda crazy. He can contribute immediately.

— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) April 4, 2021

Relative to other Day 3 picks, he will have potential — but he will still be just a Day 3 pick, and as such he will likely be an overperforming college player who underwhelms professionally.

NFL Prospect Comp: Rashad Greene with a later breakout and less college prestige.

Matthew Freedman is 1,018-828-37 (55.1%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

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